Opinion

opinion | Michael A. Cohen

Accusations against Trump are the tip of the iceberg

Special counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump.

The president of the United States has committed multiple felonies.

This is not my opinion or mere conjecture. It is not even the perspective of special counsel Robert Mueller (yet). Rather it is the stated view of federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York — lawyers who work for Trump’s own Justice Department.

According to an extraordinary sentencing memo filed Friday afternoon in the case of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen (the other one), efforts to circumvent campaign finance law and “influence the 2016 presidential election” by providing payoffs to two women who alleged affairs with Trump — Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels — were done “in coordination and at the direction” of President Trump. That is a crime and certainly an impeachable offense.

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That, in of itself, made Friday, Dec. 7, yet another day in American history that will live in infamy.

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But here’s the crazy, disturbing part: The felony accusations against Trump increasingly appear to be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the president’s alleged law-breaking.

According to a separate sentencing memo for Cohen, penned by Mueller’s office, Russian officials reached out to Cohen in the fall of 2015 — six months earlier than was previously believed. Cohen was put in touch with a Russian national who promised “synergy on a government-level” with the Russian government and proposed a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. That sounds a lot like collusion and/or a possible quid pro quo.

Cohen is also claiming that he “conferred” with Trump “about contacting the Russian government” before “reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest in such a meeting” — something he had lied about previously.

This is crucial in two respects. First it is yet one more incident of contacts during the campaign between Trump aides and Russian officials. Second, and perhaps most important, it shows that the president lied when he said he had nothing to do with Russia during the campaign.

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But there’s more.

According to the special counsel’s office, Cohen has provided Mueller’s prosecutors with “useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with Company (the Trump organization) executives during the campaign.”

Cohen also described for the special counsel “the circumstances or preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries,” and his contacts with “persons connected to the White House during the 2017-2018 time period.” This appears to suggest that Cohen conspired with White House officials in the drafting of congressional testimony that he now acknowledges was untrue. Indeed, this is the crime that Cohen plead guilty to last week.

And it’s not just Cohen. In a separate memo put out by Mueller’s office on Friday, the special counsel claims that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was in contact — both directly and indirectly — with White House officials as late as May 2018, and lied to the special counsel about it.

Then we also have the Mike Flynn sentencing memo, released earlier this week, which lauded his cooperation with the special counsel’s office and referred to information Flynn had provided about communication between the Russian and Trump campaign and transition officials.

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When you put all this together it’s very hard to escape some rather ominous conclusions:

• There were extensive efforts by Russian officials to assist the Trump campaign and that multiple Trump aides were approached;

• These Trump aides have uniformly lied to the FBI and prosecutors about these contacts;

• Collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, in some form, likely took place;

• Efforts to mislead the public and prosecutors, as well as obstruct justice, have continued into Trump’s presidency and will likely implicate White House officials, including the president, in wrong-doing;

• Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and perhaps other officials are in serious legal peril.

If this is correct then the felony offenses prosecutors say Trump committed are small potatoes compared to what is looming on the horizon.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.